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The Good Man and the Scoundrel….

I can’t say the book title in full. It feels blasphemous.

In fact it feels blasphemous to read the book but my curiosity got the better of me and here I am: I read it and I am attempting to write a review about it.

In this version of the life of Jesus, he has a twin brother called “Christ”. Jesus performed all miracles mentioned in the bible and Christ stayed in the background and implied that he will improve the story further when he gets the chance. His interest was to establish the Church, so that the message would not die and the ultimate sacrifice would ensure that the story resonates and live through generations to come.

Christ was also visited by a stranger without a name who prodded him and insinuated act of betrayals that Christ wouldn’t otherwise have thought about it himself.

Besides appearing in both Gold and White background and Gold and Black background covers (the one I read was white), at the back cover it says ‘THIS IS A STORY’, sort of a disclaimer to ward off potential hate mails and death threats (which he already got loads of them). It is meant to say, if you treat it anything else other than a story, you are confusing the genre i.e. fictional novel and religious text.

I think I was all right up to the point when the book make a mockery of the resurrection. That’s where I thought, “Whoa, this went a little bit too far.”

The writing has traces of old English and a biblical feel to it, especially when Jesus preached. I haven’t read any of “His Dark Material” book nor am I interested to but this book was an easy read.

Christ was opposite of what passionate Jesus is, I like this passage about living by every rule:

‘There are some who live by every rule and cling tightly to their rectitude because they fear being swept away by a tempest of passion, and there are others who cling to the rules because they fear that there is no passion there at all, and if that if they let go they would simply remain where they are, foolish and unmoved; and they could bear that least of all. Living a life of iron control lets them pretend to themselves that only by the mightiest effort of will can they hold great passions at bay. I am one of those. I know it, and I can do nothing about it.”

In Philip Pullman’s spin, he threw a fresh light on who Jesus was and asks the questions about the validity of the stories in New Testament. In an article appeared in Telegraph before the book is published, he said: ”By the time the gospels were being written, Paul had already begun to transform the story of Jesus into something altogether new and extraordinary, and some of his version influenced what the gospel writers put in theirs.

”Paul was a literary and imaginative genius of the first order who has probably had more influence on the history of the world than any other human being, Jesus certainly included. I believe this is a pity.” Pullman told The Times newspaper that the idea of Jesus being the son of God came from Paul’s ”fervid imagination”.

He went on: ”The story I tell comes out of the tension within the dual nature of Jesus Christ, but what I do with it is my responsibility alone. Parts of it read like a novel, parts like a history, and parts like a fairy tale; I wanted it to be like that because it is, among other things, a story about how stories become stories.”

Whether this is read like a myth or a story, I’m afraid it is a subject that is controversial and one that people may find offensive. Whether I appreciate this book challenge me, validates my doubt or make me uncomfortable, the conclusion is: it is quite an unusual reading experience.


To read a review by a reverend and former bishop with regards to this book, see Vulpes Libris.

Other reivew: Graham@my book year

I am reading this for Myth Challenge.

Hardback. Publisher:  Canongate 2010; Length: 245 pages;  Setting: The era of Jesus.  Source: Reading Library. Finished reading on: 29th July 2011.

About the writer:

Philip Pullman was born in Norwich, England in 1946 and grew up in Zimbabwe and Wales. He worked as a teacher for many years and his first children’s novel, Count Karlstein, came out in 1982. The Ruby in the Smoke, the first of the Sally Lockhart quartet of Victorian thrillers, was published in 1985. He has won many awards, including the Carnegie Medal, the Guardian Children’s Book Award, the Smarties Prize, the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, the Whitbread Book of the Year Award and a CBE. His acclaimed trilogy, His Dark Materials, has been published in 39 languages, and was the subject of a hugely successful adaptation at the National Theatre in 2003-4 and 2004-5. Once Upon a Time in the North was published in April 2008. Philip Pullman lives in Oxford with his wife, and has two sons.

About JoV

A bookaholic that went out of control.... I eat, sleep and breathe books. Well, lately I do other stuff.


12 thoughts on “The Good Man and the Scoundrel….

  1. You know, I started reading this, and what bugged me wasn’t AT ALL the, whatever, the blasphemy or whatever you want to call it, the disrespect to a major religious figure. I didn’t finish it so maybe it got better but honestly, what bothered me the most was how incredibly obvious and sententious it all was. The story was deadly dull. I’m with Oscar Wilde on this — There’s no such thing as a moral or an immoral book; books are well written or badly written. What I read of this book, it was badly written. Yuck.

    Posted by Jenny | July 31, 2011, 12:50 am
  2. I had not heard of this book. I am not a Philip Pullman fan. He is a good writer, but he does tend to write “blasphemy”. I usually don’t get offended by anything, but his books I do not like. I have only read His Dark Materials and that disturbed me. I think that everyone has the right to write and say whatever they want, but the fact that he wrote those books for kids really bothers me.
    Great review!

    Posted by celawerd | July 31, 2011, 12:48 pm
    • Celawerd,
      I don’t get offended by things, I am not even offended by “The Slap” by Christos Tsialkos I reviewed last month. Provided readers don’t read too deep into what he has written, his book could be entertaining I suppose. I don’t feel the urge to read his other books unfortunately. I agree that he writes books for kids is disturbing, sometimes I find Harry Potter books in the later series are disturbing for children as well!

      Posted by JoV | July 31, 2011, 1:12 pm
  3. The whole “blasphemy” aspect of this didn’t bother me, but I did find it to be an interesting experiment and it had some clever ideas behind it. I think the short segments that it is broken up into as chapters also read quite “Biblically” if that makes sense.

    Posted by Graham | July 31, 2011, 8:11 pm
  4. I have this on my shelf, but I think I’d feel uncomfortable reviewing it on my blog and so have avoided reading it. I won’t be offended, but I know a lot of people will be. I am actually intrigued by your comment about it being “an unusual reading experience” and so may give it a try at a later date – when I have a bit more spare time.

    Posted by farmlanebooks | August 1, 2011, 10:32 am
    • Jackie,
      You said something interesting. Sometimes I question myself if I should write about certain things because reader might get put off with it but I always took a stand that my blog is my voice and readers think less of me because I write about certain books, it wouldn’t bother me.

      It feels unusual to me because I find myself nodding to the biblical teaching about be good to your neighbours, turn the other cheeks etc etc one minute …and then the next cringe at who Mary Magdalene actually saw after the day Jesus is crucified in this book… it’s just very weird.

      Posted by JoV | August 1, 2011, 1:34 pm
  5. I’ve never heard of this one. I can see how it would be a hard book to review. You just never know who is going to be offended by it or even what you say about it.

    Posted by Ti | August 1, 2011, 2:52 pm
  6. Well, I am rather curious what all the fuss is about. The bible is just a book to me, and I’m as much of an atheist as can be, but the book does have to be well-written, scandalous as it might be to some.

    Posted by Bina | August 10, 2011, 9:34 pm


  1. Pingback: It’s a Wrap! July 2011 « Bibliojunkie - August 1, 2011

  2. Pingback: My Favorite Books of 2011 | Maphead's Book Blog - January 1, 2012

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Ratings Defined

0 = Abandon the book after first chapter

1 = Waste of paper, we will see what the environmentalist say about this!

2 = Skip it, read the book if you have got nothing better to do

2.5 = An average book, easily forgettable.

3 = A good read.

3.5 = A good entertaining read, a page-turner

4 = So glad that I read the book, a book with substance and invaluable for future reference

4.5 = So glad that I read the book, would pester everyone to read it, invaluable, I would want to own it and wouldn't mind a second read (something that I seldom do)

5 = The book is so good that I feel like I am on scale 4 and 4.5, and more, it blew me away and lingers on my head for weeks!

Books Read

JoV's bookshelf: read
Hold Tight
The Fault in Our Stars
The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon
The Thief
Catching Fire
A Tale for the Time Being
Into the Darkest Corner
The Liars' Gospel
Goat Mountain
Strange Weather In Tokyo
Strange Shores
And the Mountains Echoed
Ten White Geese
One Step Too Far
The Innocents
The General: The ordinary man who became one of the bravest prisoners in Guantanamo
White Dog Fell from the Sky
A Virtual Love
The Fall of the Stone City

JoV's favorite books »
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Reading, after a certain age, diverts the mind too much from its creative pursuits. Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking. - Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955)

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